The government is committed to doing all we can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients.
That’s why we have invested £300 million in this project, which will see 11 Genomics Medicines Centres opening across England in February 2015, allowing scientists to decode 100,000 human genomes – a person’s DNA code. This research will help scientists to better understand how cancer and rare diseases work.
The 3 year landmark project is on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world and is expected to provide a lifeline to thousands of families affected by rare genetic diseases and cancers. The project has the potential to transform the future of healthcare. It could improve the prediction and prevention of disease, enable new and more precise diagnostic tests, and allow personalisation of drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.
Some participating patients will benefit because a conclusive diagnosis can be reached for a rare and inherited disease more quickly, or because a treatment for cancer can be targeted at the particular genetic change that is present in the cancer. But for a number of patients, the benefit will be in the improvement in our knowledge of the influence of genetics on disease and how it is expressed in an individual, how other people can be helped with similar diseases in the future, and how different types of tests can be developed to detect changes beyond the genome.
The GMCs have a track-record of providing excellence in genomic services and have been evaluated by NHS England to ensure they meet the requirements to deliver the project.
It is anticipated that around 75,000 people will be involved, which will include some patients with life threatening and debilitating disease. Recruitment to the project will begin from 2nd February 2015.
After samples are collected, they will be sent securely to Illumina who have been procured by Genomics England to sequence the whole genome and to analyse it. Results will be sent back to the NHS for validation and clinical action.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director, said: “This is an achievable ambition which positions Britain to unlock longstanding mysteries of disease on behalf of humankind. Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science and make the NHS the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world. This is the start of a unique, exciting journey that will bring benefits for patients, for the NHS and for society at large.”
Professor Sue Hill, the Chief Scientific Officer for England, who chaired the team evaluating the various applicant GMCs said: “The NHS has risen to both the challenge and opportunity of delivering its contribution to the 100,000 whole genomes project in the most extraordinary and unparalleled way. Locally in the NHS, there has been clearly demonstrated engagement and involvement of senior managers, clinical teams, clinical genetic and molecular pathology laboratories and critically patients and the public, all committed to using the science of whole genome sequencing to making a real and lasting difference for patient benefit.”
Professor Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England, said: “The creation of the new NHS Genomic Medicine Centres will play a key role in bringing together researchers, NHS clinicians and trainees to work on whole genome data that has never been collected on this scale before. We have a clear goal of accelerating the findings from the programme back into mainstream healthcare at the fastest possible pace, meaning more rapid results for patients."